Boing Boing 

Former TSA officer reveals widespread misery there

Being a TSA officer is a dream job for sadistic sociopaths, but for people who are able to sympathize, it's a nightmare. "I hated it from the beginning," writes former TSA officer Jason Edward Harrington, in an essay published in Politico Magazine. He recounts the daily shame of having to confiscate nail clippers from pilots (to prevent the pilots from using them to "hijack the very planes they were flying"), jars of homemade apple butter ("on the pretense that they could pose threats to national security") and a bottle of champagne from some Marines returning home from Afghanistan who wanted to share it with a young soldier who'd lost his legs to an I.E.D.

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Buy your own TSA-surplus pornoscanner for $8K


Remember when the TSA spent $113K on Rapiscan pornoscanners that turned out not to work? Now they're selling them off for $8,000.

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WATCH: FBI has chat with YouTuber for filming in Speedo on plane

YouTube star Jerome Jarre decided to have some fun on a flight to Miami, so he slipped into a silly swimming outfit in the lavatory and filmed the hijinks. After being threatened with jail, he had a little talk with the FBI.

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Jetsetting Terrorist: Blog from a guy who is branded "SSSS" by the TSA

Jetsetting Terrorist is a fascinating blog written by a guy who was once convicted of an activist property crime and as a result must undergo enhanced screening every time he flies.

I’m not an actual “terrorist,” but years ago the the government convicted me of a property crime it deemed “terrorism,” and since then, life has been interesting.

Especially flying. Since 2009, I’ve been on the TSA’s “terrorist watch list.” Not quite the “no fly list”, but close.

This means that when I fly, the TSA goes crazy. At various times, I’ve been refused entry to planes, tailed through airports, and told my Starbucks coffee might be a bomb. What the TSA does when someone like me flies

Here’s the abridged protocol:

  • I obtain a boarding pass. It is emblazened with four large S’s. Like this: “SSSS.”
  • At security, the TSA sees the S’s. Their eyes get big. They turn between 90 and 180 degrees, lean into their radio, and whisper for backup.
  • A senior officer approach, announces I have been “selected” for special screening. I am told to follow them.
  • I am escorted to the front of the line (this is the good part). My carry-on items are placed in a bright red bin.
  • I am shadowed through the body scanner.
  • I receive what I will euphemistically call a “thorough pat-down.”
  • My luggage is ripped apart, swabbed for explosive residue, my computer turned on, and everything generally put under a microscope.
  • TSA takes my ID into a back room and calls the FBI to report my travels.
  • Meanwhile, TSA mobilizes a “random security audit” at the gate, re-checking IDs and searching luggage of everyone on my flight.

Other:

  • I am not allowed to sit in an exit row.
  • I am not allowed to check in from home.

If this doesn’t exactly sound like high drama, just wait. The TSA is so disorganized and arbitrary, the results are a pure comedy of errors. Each time I fly the TSA manages to get something wrong, display some level of colossal incompetence, and generally make themselves worthy of being made fun of on the internet.

TSA demands to search man who's already flown

Minnesota's Kahler Nygard drew a Spirit Air boarding car with the dreaded "SSSS" extra-search marker, and halfway to Denver, Spirit and/or the TSA decided he hadn't been searched properly (he says he was), so they panicked and dragged him off the plane in Denver for another search because he might have been a time-traveller who could harm a plane after getting off of it.

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TSA: "please verify that your used cane is not a sword before flying"

Kevin Underhill nails it: "Anyone who does not know their cane conceals a sword or dagger (almost certainly an elderly or disabled person with a second-hand cane) poses no threat, while anyone who does know it will not need, want, or follow this advice."

Security researchers buy pornoscanner, demonstrate how to sneak in guns & bombs


(Rapiscan images showing a subject carrying no weapon (left) versus a .380 ACP pistol sewn to the side of his pants leg, (right) which is practically invisible in the scan)

Researchers from UCSD, the U Michigan, and Johns Hopkins will present their work on the Rapiscan Secure 1000 at Usenix Security tomorrow; the Secure 1000 isn't used in airports anymore, but it's still in courts, jails, and government security checkpoints (researchers can't yet get their hands on the millimeter machines used at airports).

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Where do bags go after the TSA takes them?

They go to Alabama, writes intrepid and daring sock smuggler Dan Lewis.

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FBI and AG sued by American muslims over no-fly list


Four of the plaintiffs are US citizens, the other a permanent resident, and they say that their rights have been routinely violated by a secret, unaccountable terrorist watchlist system that impairs their ability to travel and subjects them to "the unimaginable indignity and real-life danger of having your own government communicate to hundreds of thousands of federal agents, private contractors, state and local police, the captains of sea-faring vessels, and foreign governments all across the world that you are a violent menace."

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TSA employee to security theater skeptics: "You don't have shit for rights"


A person who "works for the TSA" accidentally posted a public comment to Facebook excoriating Rebecca Hains for expressing skepticism about the TSA's efficacy.

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Fake TSA screener infiltrates SFO checkpoint, gropes women


He was allegedly drunk, and had at least two victims before SFO's crackerjack private aviation security outfit, Covenant, noticed (they're the same ones who smashed my brand new camera some years ago and refused to take responsibility for it).

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Yet another TSA screener doesn't know that DC is part of America


An Orlando TSA screener told a DC-based reporter that he'd need a passport to fly, because DC isn't a state, so a DC driver's license wasn't valid ID.

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TSA's Instagram

Tsa

The TSA's Instagram continues to be a real hoot. Below, see a grenade-shaped vape, comb daggers, and Batarangs!

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Have your say on TSA tax-hike

If you'd rather that the cost of US airline tickets not rise an average of 5% to pay for additional invasive and largely pointless TSA screening, you can tell them so. (Thanks, Dwen!)

TSA tells UK airport security: confiscate broken and out-of-battery gadgets


The TSA has demanded that overseas airports, like London's Heathrow, should require travellers to turn on their electronics before flying to the USA, and ban any broken or out-of-power devices.

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Pornoscanners head to prisons

Normally technology migrates from prisons to schools to airports -- think CCTVs and Pre-Check -- but for the late and unlamented radioactive pornoscanners that the TSA had to give up on, the technology path went the other way -- if you're lucky enough to be incarcerated in the USA (which incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth), you may be treated to one or more TSA-surplus pornoscans.

TSA agents demand bag-search to look for "Bitcoins"

Davi Barker was flying from Manchester, NH when, he says, he was stopped by two men who identified themselves as "managers" for the TSA, who claimed they had seen Bitcoins in his baggage and wanted to be sure he wasn't transporting more than $10,000 worth. When he asked them what they thought a Bitcoin looked like, they allegedly said that it looked like a coin or a medallion. (via Hacker News)

TSA not sure if DC drivers licenses are valid ID

DC resident Ashley Brandt was surprised to meet a TSA agent at Phoenix airport who didn't think that DC drivers' licenses were valid ID, because DC isn't a state.

What it's like to come home to America if your name is "Ahmed"


Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is a respected journalist who holds US citizenship. Every time he returns to his home in New York, he is detained for many hours by the DHS, subjected to humiliating questioning and detention without evidence or charge, because he fits a "profile" that seems to consist entirely of "brown dude with Arabic name who visits the middle east." He recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos and found himself detained for hours, despite having been assured that his name had been removed from the DHS's watch-list.

His story of harrowing treatment at JFK airport stands in sharp contrast to his experiences at checkpoints in the middle east, where security risks are much more immediate and more grave. As he points out, America has spent billions creating an aviation security system and system of border checks that have had no material impact on security, but have nonetheless enmiserated, alienated, and harassed millions of people who committed no crime and posed no threat,

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TSA whistleblower describes life in the pornoscanner room


In Jason Edward Harrington's Dear America, I Saw You Naked, he reveals that he was the anonymous TSA agent who wrote the Taking Sense Away tell-all/whistleblower blog. Harrington's piece is a shocking and eye-opening look into the world of TSA agents, especially the section dealing with the "IO room" where the nude photos of travellers who used the Rapiscan machines were displayed:

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The Insider’s TSA Dictionary

Jason Edward Harrington, the former TSA officer who revealed the uselessness of the Rapiscan body scanners the federal government squandered $40 million on, has written an article for Politico about his time working at the TSA and his run-ins with the apparatchiks and nomenklatura in charge. Included in the article is a list of code words used by TSA officers he's compiled. Here are a few:

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Judge rules TSA no-fly procedures unconstitutional

Despite a series of disgraceful dirty tricks, the TSA has lost its case against Dr Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian academic who had been wrongly put on the no-fly list. The DHS engaged in witness tampering (denying Dr Ibrahim and her witnesses access to the courtroom by putting them on the no-fly list) and argued that neither Dr Ibrahim nor her lawyers should be allowed to see the evidence against her (because terrorism).

Lowering the Bar does a great job of summing up the ruling, which held the no-fly list unconstitutional because citizens are "entitled to a remedy that requires the government to correct its lists and records... and to certify under oath that such correction(s) have been made."

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TSA's "12 Banned Items of Christmas"

Reason's video enumerating the TSA's "12 Banned Items of Christmas" is a perfect, acerbic and funny list of the most egregiously stupid and arbitrary rules for American fliers. And as they point out, the TSA has never stopped a terrorist attack. But so long as we're prevented from carrying on guacamole (but permitted to carry on avocados) and permitted to carry on pies (but not pie filling(, I'm sure we'll be safe. And never forget this pro-tip: you can carry on as much liquid as you'd like so long as it is labelled "breast milk."

The TSA's 12 Banned Items of Christmas (via Reddit)

TSA confiscates photographer's blower because it could be filled with gunpowder and used as a missile


In a photography forum, Surapon recounts the sad story of how the TSA took away his Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster, a blower for removing dust from equipment, at an airport in New York.

According to him, he was on his way back to North Carolina from Greece when the TSA flagged his camera-case for manual inspection. The TSA agent reportedly produced the rocket-shaped blower, and then he and a colleague grimly pronounced the dangers of this object, should it be filled with gunpowder and then launched like a rocket through the cockpit.

Since then, Surapon assiduously sliced the decorative fins off his blowers, and has had no further trouble from the TSA.

My New and Improve GIOTTOS Blower-for safety. (Thanks, Visionrouge!)

TSA seize tiny, itsy-bitsy gun from sock-monkey


The sock monkey above is called "Rooster Monkburn," and he was created by Phillis May, who makes a sells sock monkeys. When Ms May and her husband traversed the TSA checkpoint at SEA-TAC St Louis airport, an eagle-eyed TSA operative noticed that Rooster was sporting a sub-two-inch toy pistol, which she seized, threatening to call police. Altogether, now, everyone: U! S! A! U! S! A! U! S! A!

May said the TSA agent went through the bag, through the sewing supplies and found the two-inch long pistol.

“She said ‘this is a gun,’” said May. “I said no, it’s not a gun it’s a prop for my monkey.”

“She said ‘If I held it up to your neck, you wouldn’t know if it was real or not,’ and I said ‘really?’” said May.

The TSA agent told May she would have to confiscate the tiny gun and was supposed to call the police.

“I said well go ahead,” said May. “And I said really? You’re kidding me right, and she said no it looks like a gun.”

“She took my monkey’s gun,” said May, who has retained her sense of humor.

TSA agent confiscates sock monkey's toy pistol [Susan Wyatt/King 5 News]

(Thanks, Gary!)

(Image: Phyllis May)

TSA blows a billion bucks on unscientific "behavioral detection" program, reinvents phrenology


10 years and $900M later, the TSA's behavioral analysis program is a debacle. Here's the US Government Accountability Office on the program: "Ten years after the development of the SPOT program, TSA cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of its behavior detection activities. Until TSA can provide scientifically validated evidence demonstrating that behavioral indicators can be used to identify passengers who may pose threat to aviation security, the agency risks funding activities [that] have not been determined to be effective."

Basically, the TSA has spent a decade and nearly a billion dollars reinventing phrenology. I feel safer already.

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TSA admits "terrorists in America are not plotting against aviation"

An accidentally published, unredacted document from a lawsuit against the TSA reveals that the Taking Shoes Away people believe that "terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports." That is to say, there is no identifiable risk to America's skies -- and all of business with shoes and pornoscanners and horrible, abusive incidents involving toddlers, people with mental disabilities, cancer survivors, rape survivors, and the whole business of treating travellers like presumptive terrorists is all to prevent a problem that, to all intents and purposes, doesn't exist.

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Phoenix TSA makes breast cancer survivors remove their prostheses

The Arizona Republic has found a large cohort of elderly and retired people who claim to have been abused by TSA staff at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport. The passengers claim that they were required to remove their prostheses (particularly prosthetic breasts worn by cancer survivors), and that their objections were met with threats and hostility.

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TSA may allow in-flight marijuana

As more states pass medical marijuana laws, or legalize it outright, the TSA is heading for a don't-ask/don't-tell police on weed at airports. The official policy is to refer drug possession to local law, but where the law doesn't care, that's rather pointless.

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TSA is officially allowed to lie to you in order to cover its ass

The TSA is allowed to lie in its responses to Freedom of Information Requests. Its court-granted ability to lie to the public it nominally serves isn't limited to sensitive issues, either: they're allowed to pretend that they don't have CCTV footage of their own officers violating their own policies, even when they do.

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